HAWAII (BIG ISLAND) 2017 – FOUR FOR THE ROAD (AGAIN)

10/17 – Tuesday

Leaving on a jet plane……

Left Sea-Tac about noon and arrived in Kona mid-afternoon. Claimed our rental car, and drove north along the coast highway to the Waikoloa Beach Resort, where our traveling companions Mark and Vicki have a time share condo. All along the way it was like driving over a barren landscape. In some places lava covered the ground. Where no lava rocks were in evidence, the gently sloping hillside was covered with various kinds of scrub brush. And here and there, a herd of feral goats. Not at all what I expected to see in Hawaii. Where the heck were the palm trees, and what’s with this wind from hell? But I was reminded that we were in Eastern Washington, I mean, western Hawaii, and it was the dry side of the state. (Hard to grasp. Everyone knows that the western portion of a state is the wet side, and the eastern section is dry. Duh!)

The condo was beautiful and the grounds amazing. And right beside the condo, the 12th hole on the resort golf course, and the favorite litter box for all the feral cats in the vicinity!

After getting checked in and settled, we dined at the Lava-Lava Beach Club. We were lucky to get a table because it was the first day after many, so we were told, that it was dry enough to enjoy a meal outside.

It turned out to be a lovely place to dine. Good food, and right on the beach, sand fleas and all! In addition to excellent food, and a terrific locale, the restaurant provided entertainment. Live music and a hula dancer. We arrived about an hour before sundown, so we were blessed with a beautifully colored sunset as we were finishing our dessert.

After our very enjoyable first meal in Hawaii, we proceeded back to the condo to research our next day’s adventure. Then off to bed.

10/18 – Wednesday  

Purple – the color of the day!

Woke early, made a pot of coffee using the grounds provided by the management, then out for breakfast. We decided on the A-Bay Island Grill and I had my first taste (perhaps my last) of Loco Moco. Now for those of you who have not had the pleasure (and I use the term pleasure lightly), Loco Moco is basically Jasmin rice, topped with a seasoned ground beef patty, topped with an egg (your choice of preparation) and brown (I’m sure straight out of a can) gravy. Now I don’t mean to brag, but I think I could have made a better gravy! But, the ground beef was very nicely seasoned, and I was able to eat most of this Hawaiian staple! Am I going to try making Loco Moco at home? You bet. Is it ever going to make the blog? Probably not!

After breakfast we drove to nearby Waikoloa Village to do some food and adult beverage provisioning. We bought fresh ahi tuna, smoked salmon for pasta, and other ingredients necessary to prepare breakfasts and a couple of dinners in our condo kitchen. Fortunately Vicki had brought some herbs and spices, salt and pepper, olive oil, and assorted other staple ingredients from home. We filled in the rest and trundled on back to our unit to stash our supplies and then head out on our first-day mini road trip.

We headed north along the coastal Akoni Pule Highway to the small town of Hawi (pronounced “haw-vee”). We parked behind a small convenience store so that Mark could buy water and we could all use the facilities. The “facilities” turned out to be a large purple sani-can complete with resident gecko. (My daughter Paula had told me ahead of time that there were no real guest restrooms on the big island, and as it turned out, she was absolutely right!) After our “water” break, we headed up the hill via the Kohala Mountain road just to get a feel for the lay of the land. Before we started “down” again, we had reached an elevation of 3,700 feet in no time flat, ears popping all the way. Now we were seeing vegetation consistent with what I thought Hawaii had to offer.

After our ride, we arrived back at the condo mid-afternoon and proceeded to rest for a short while. While Mr. C. and I were reading out on the spacious lanai, we thought we could hear music. And it vaguely sounded like live music. We consulted the weekly schedule of events provided by The Bay Club, and learned that jazz with Bill Noble was happening right across the street at the Bay Club Café and Bar. Well, all righty then! We swiftly put on our shoes and for the next hour or so enjoyed contemporary jazz and a fine little drinky right in our very own neighborhood.

our lanai 

After listening and enjoying the music, we headed back to our condo and cooked up a nice dinner of ahi tuna, salad, and corn-on-the-cob. After dinner it was a scintillating game of Bendominoes (you simply must try this game), then off to bed.

10/19 – Thursday

He didn’t and she didn’t and there was much rejoicing!

Made breakfast in our very own kitchen, then back in the car for a repeat trip to Hawi. This time however, we did not (a) use the purple porta potty, causing the necessity for another round of unneeded water and peanut-butter cups, or (b) drive directly up the Kohala Mountains road.

Instead, Andy parked the car and we did some shopping! Not serious shopping, but enough serious looking as to make a couple of spouses a bit nervous. But in the end, Mark didn’t buy an ukulele (pronounced oo-koo-ley-ley BTW) at the local music and vintage clothing store, and Patti didn’t buy a $750.00 glass fish at one of the nicer galleries in town. And there was much rejoicing from both spouses. (I did purchase a beautiful wire basket, but it was priced lower than a burger at Red Robin, so no guilt over this purchase!)

To celebrate our success in eschewing the two rather costly items, we decided to stay in Hawi and dine at Bamboo, purported to be the best restaurant on the big island. The food was good, but not amazing. If this restaurant was the best the island had to offer, the rest of our food adventures might not be as rewarding as dining, in say, any ristorante in Italy!

After lunch we drove north of town to visit the statue of King Kamehameha (the first).

Then over “the high road” and back to our lovely room to rest, read, report, and generally do what one is supposed to do on vacation – veg!

But nothing can keep the four of us from live music for long, so at 4:30 pm we headed to the Kohala poolside to hear contemporary and Hawaiian music with Sonny Lim. It was really fun to listen to slack key guitar and electric bass, combined with lovely vocal harmony. We loved the first part of the “concert”, but when they added a drum machine and started performing Eddie Rabbitt tunes, we bid the musicians aloha and made a hasty retreat back to the quiet of our condo.

That evening we stayed in and enjoyed smoked salmon pasta and a fresh fruit platter containing Star Fruit, Papaya, Soursop (look it up), Rambutan (you better look this up too), and Dragon fruit. Then after a short time of talking over the day’s activities, it was off to dreamland.

10/20 – Friday

Bahn Mi baby!

Breakfast on our deck, then into our rented Jeep Compass and up Kawaihae road to Waimea. Then south along the Mamalahoa highway and highway 11 to Kainaliu. And what a grand adventure that was! We took a couple “side” roads along the way, but best not to tell you about them because you might just follow our tire tracks, and you wouldn’t thank us for steering you (so to speak) to these very winding and narrow alternate routes.

In the small community of Kainaliu, also referred to as the “Arts District”, we went shopping. (I know – again!?!?) Mark bought a couple of vintage ties, Vicki purchased some absolutely gorgeous material, and I bought a decorative basket at a charming gallery featuring local artisans. Now, how I expected to get my new basket home, I have no idea. But Mr. C. quietly reminded me that Hawaii is still in the US, and thus – US post offices. I still had a few doubts about how I was actually going to get my whimsical new basket home in one piece. But sometimes you simply have to take a chance and hope that good karma will be there for you. (I actually ended up carrying the basket on the plane with me. Luckily it just fit under the airplane seat, bubble wrap and all. Final analysis – worth every bit of effort.

 

Now, when in Kainaliu, it absolutely behooves you to visit the Donkey Balls Factory.

And of course once you’ve opened the door….well….when in Rome, etc. etc. Don’t know about Donkey Balls? Please allow me to elucidate. Donkey Balls are basically handmade round gourmet chocolates, using 100% Hawaiian macadamia nuts and available in about 50 flavors and colors. Desperately need a chocolate covered macadamia nut? A Donkey Ball is the answer to your prayer. Like the color blue? Get yourself a bag of Blue Balls. (I’m not making this up folks.)

Blue Balls are macadamia nuts covered in semi-sweet chocolate and then coated with a layer of blue colored white chocolate. Needless to say, a bag of Donkey Balls accompanied us back to our condo for a late afternoon treat.

After shopping in Kainaliu, we stopped at a Vietnamese restaurant in downtown Kailua-Kona and dined on Bahn Mi and Pho. Both OK, but not up to our terribly high standards!

As we were proceeding north toward home, we made a planned stop for Vicki and me at The Vanillerie. I mean seriously, we had to take a tour of a vanilla production facility because both of us are certified vanilla addicts. Our tour guide was one of the owners – JR Pataray. He showed us through the vanilla orchid greenhouse and we were able to see the pods/beans hanging from the vines, only about three weeks from being picked. Then our guide showed us the boiling area and the drying shed. Absolutely fascinating. Throughout our tour I came to fully appreciate why real vanilla is so darned expensive. Two very important aspects. Maximum labor involvement, and time. Then back on the road.

To learn more about how vanilla extract is produced, please refer to the short synopsis at the bottom of this post.

After relaxing in our condo for a couple of hours, we decided a burger and a glass of barley soda (you figure it out) would top our day off perfectly. So we drove up to the Big Island Brew Haus in Waimea. But no luck! The restaurant was closed for a kitchen floor replacement. Rats! So we ate at a nearby restaurant, Café Pesto, and enjoyed a fine Italian meal. Unfortunately only one item on the menu appeared to feature pesto. (Mr. C’s favorite.) Even as a featured ingredient, there wasn’t enough pesto in the dish to make a never-mind. Oh well – perhaps another day we would return to this restaurant and demand a pesto dish befitting the name of this fine dining establishment! But it was time to return to our condo. So with full tummies we proceeded back to our digs for an early bedtime.

10/21 – Saturday

Let ‘er blow – just not today!

Up at dawn for a reasonably early start to visit the farmer’s market in Hilo and a visit with David, Jee, and baby Hadrian in Volcano. (The village of Volcano, not the volcano itself!)

Now our early start was 9:00 am. By some standards that would be unacceptable, but for us it was a reasonably decent departure time. (One simply must have a good breakfast before setting off on an adventure.)

BTW, in terms of daylight, the longest day in Hawaii is only 2 hours, and 36 minutes longer than the shortest day. (That’s what living only 1,350 miles from the equator can do for you!) Whereas in Seattle, the difference between the amount of daylight on the summer solstice is 7 hours, and 34 minutes longer than on the December solstice. But then, Seattle is 3,290 miles from the equator. (I included these particulars just in case you are like me, totally addicted to irrelevant bits of information.) But back to our day.

So off we set for our first drive over the Saddle Road. (The Saddle Road is new. It crosses the island from east to west, coast to coast, with the start of the highway being quite close to our resort. It ends near Hilo, so absolutely the fastest way for us to cross the island.)

Our first destination was the farmer’s market in Hilo. After making a few attempts to find the market, we finally succeeded in locating both the market and a parking place. And oh what a fun place to visit. The fruit and vegetable stalls were amazing. I swear, if I lived in Hilo or its environs, I would shop at this market every week. (It’s open every Wednesday and Saturday.) The inexpensive flower arrangements were so tempting, I simply couldn’t pass by without buying one. The produce was fresh and very reasonably priced. (In general, food purchased in a grocery store is very expensive in Hawaii. Same goes for restaurants. So I’m sure this market, along with other farmer’s markets located around the island, are a God send for the locals.)

After loading up on fresh veggies, fruit, and of course my flower arrangement, we headed over to the arts/crafts section. I bought a glass fish, and Mark bought a couple of Hawaiian shirts.

 

I call him “Joe”

After leaving the market, we decided we needed grits (food). And since we were in Hilo, and one of the “must visit” restaurant destinations listed in Fodor’s just happened to be on route to our second planned stop, we headed for Ken’s House of Pancakes for a quick bite.

Well – the food was OK, but not of a quality worth describing in any detail. What I found most interesting however, was that during the time we were there we were served by three older Hawaiian/Asian ladies.  Not once did any of these ladies offer us a smile. Not even a tiny little grin. It was almost as if each one deemed it a personal challenge to refrain from providing anything but the lowest possible level of politeness to their customers. I wondered if they gathered after their shift and entertained each other by detailing their lack of interaction with the patrons. At one point it was all I could do not to offer one of these dispassionate women a dollar if they would just smile at me. I refrained, only because I felt that my request would have given one of them an advantage over their fellow servers during their after-shift debriefing, and I wasn’t about to do any one of them a favor. (Two can play the game!)

After lunch we headed up towards the village of Volcano to visit son Sven’s good buddy Dave and his family, including his visiting mother-in-law. Sven and Dave were constant companions from about 3rd grade when they started playing soccer on the same team. And since I was a  dedicated soccer mom, I got to know Dave and his mom fairly well. So of course I wanted to see Dave while we were so close to his home.

After a couple hours of visiting with Dave and his family and receiving a tour of their very unique and lovely home and grounds, we all headed up to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.

Unfortunately the caldera was only smoking and all lava output was firmly entrenched underground.

Maybe next time we visit it will be feeling furious and exhibiting its wrath. But for our visit, the volcano apparently wasn’t interested in causing a fuss! And if you consider the welfare of the people who live on, or are visiting the big island, they/we really didn’t need to be breathing more vog anyway. And what is “vog” you might ask? Per Wikipedia, my favorite source for information possibly accurate, “Vog is a form of air pollution that results when sulfur dioxide and other gases and particles emitted by an erupting volcano react with oxygen and moisture in the presence of sunlight. The word is a portmanteau of the words “volcanic”, “smog”, and “fog”.” In other words – nasty stuff (my words)!

After saying goodbye to Dave and his family at the park, we decided it was time to head on home. We arrived at our condo about 5:30. We were all tired and decided to order in. But we were too late for the fried chicken dinner we were all savoring after, so we went to a local restaurant instead. The restaurant, Romano’s Macaroni Grill in Queen’s Village (shopping center) was very large and noisy. The food was great, however, the service not so much. It was slow and our Caesar salads never arrived. When our entrees were delivered we cancelled our salad orders. (Probably a good thing we didn’t receive our starter salads, because we were all pleasantly satiated after finishing our entrées.)

Then back to our room for a rousing game of one of Mark and Vicki’s favorites – Balderdash. Our first time playing this game, but hopefully, not our last. Mark turned out to be, by far, the best liar and the best guesser that evening. Then off to our rooms for some quality time with our current novels and a long examinations of the inside of our eyelids.

10/22 – Sunday

Dolphins like fish too!

Quiet day around the resort area. Had lunch at the Queen’s food court, then a quick trip to the local grocery store. Then back to our condo to catch the shuttle to view the grounds surrounding the Hilton hotel. Wow!

Lovely walk. Even caught the up close and personal feeding time for the dolphins.

Such fun just standing by the railing watching the keepers run the dolphins through their tricks and rewarding them with fresh sardines, or whatever fish it is that dolphins prefer. Then back to the condo to read and relax.

I had purchased some Japanese eggplant at the Hilo Farmer’s Market, so we all decided that Eggplant Parmesan sounded perfect. So I spent some quality time in the kitchen and we dined on the casserole, roasted garlic bread, and a simple green salad. Comfort food all the way! Early to bed so we wouldn’t be too sleepy for our next days’ appointment at 9:30 am.

10/23 – Monday

It’s your lucky day!

Armed with a hearty Mark breakfast, we headed off to the sales office for Mark and Vicki’s semi-mandatory 90 minute sales presentation. Like most time shares, there is always a “carrot” to draw owners in to listen to a very smooth and well-rehearsed pitch. In this case, the “carrot” came in the form of points that can be used to pay for Hilton hotel rooms around the world, plus a pass for price reductions on several costly local tourist attractions. Mr. C. and I decided to go along and provide support and perhaps become so obnoxious that the presenter would speed through his/her spiel just to get rid of us!

Mark checked in and we were asked to have a seat until a sales representative could break free. After only a minute or two a gentleman walked over to where we were seated, introduced himself, and pronounced the four words no sane, intelligent person ever wants to hear – “it’s your lucky day!” All four of us were about to stand up and run screaming out of the sales center when he qualified his statement. Apparently the entire sales staff was swamped that day, and unless we (he included Mr. C. and me) were truly interested in purchasing a unit, or another unit in Mark and Vicki’s case, points would still be given and an events pass would become our very own, without having to endure the 90 minute talk. (My word, not his!) We all kind of looked at each other in disbelief, and simultaneously graciously accepted his heartfelt offer (yea team)! So instead of wasting precious time (ours and his), we were out the door in about 20 minutes.

So having extra time on our hands, we headed back to our digs, discussed our options, and decided it was time to tour the Waipi’o Valley.

Waipi’o (wai-piʻo means “curved water” in the Hawaiian language) is on the Hamakua (east side) coast of the island and is named after one of the rivers that flow through the valley. The valley, only about a mile wide and six miles deep, was the boyhood home of King Kamehameha I, and an important center for political and religious life in Hawaii. Not only is “The Valley of the Kings” an important site for Hawaiian history and culture, it’s also a place of dramatic tropical beauty.

Waipio Valley was also once the home of thousands of native Hawaiians. But today, thanks to the most devastating tsunami in Hawaii’s history (1946) which swept great waves far back into the valley, people left the valley and it has been sparsely populated ever since. Today there are less than 100 residents living amongst the waterfalls, taro fields and rivers permeating the valley.

You can view this very fertile valley from the coastal Waipio Valley Overlook at the end of the Hamakua Heritage Corridor drive, or you can take a guided van tour, as we did, to explore the hidden wonders within.

Along the way, our tour guide shared stories and legends of this special place. The road down to Waipi’o Valley is one of the steepest roads on the island.

On the steepest part, it rises 800 feet in only 0.6 miles. The average grade of the road is 25%, but peaks at 40%. Driving, or as in our case, being driven, gives a good tilt to the horizon. (And that’s saying it mildly!)

While looking east on the road down to the valley we marveled at the 2000 foot steep cliffs that surround the valley. Apparently these cliffs were formed when parts of the Big Island collapsed into the ocean. Towards the back, the valley splits into many ‘fingers’, each with its own waterfall. The island of Hawaii’s tallest waterfall, Hiilawe Falls cascades down 1,300 feet. Absolutely breathtaking.

A beautiful black sand beach separates the valley from the ocean.

One of the best parts of our valley tour was the vegetation. We saw star fruit trees, banana trees, breadfruit trees, papaya, taro fields, several types of ginger plants, pomelo, and an abundance of beautiful flowers and foliage. Also lovely birds and wild horses.

 

We also drove through several streams which I found to be just plain fun. In one of the streams we actually saw Tilapia swimming about.

Taro field complete with resident Black-Crowned Night Heron (I think)!

As far as I’m concerned, this valley is one of the “must see” sites on the big island. I would not have missed visiting it for the world.

Before our tour we had stopped for lunch in Honoka’a at the TEX drive-in. This drive-in had been touted in Fodor as having really great malasadas. A malasada is a Portuguese inspired donut, made of egg-sized balls of yeast dough that are deep-fried in oil and coated with granulated sugar. They were first made by inhabitants of the Madeira Islands. Traditional malasadas contain neither holes nor fillings, but some varieties are now available with flavored cream or fruit jellies piped into their centers.

The malasadas we purchased came with a selection of fillings, were square in shape, and warm. I thought they were good. Mark and Vicki who are malasada connoisseurs, were not terribly impressed, so we are now on a quest for the perfect malasada. (Could be worse. Could be headcheese!)

I ordered my second Loco Moco. Bad mistake. Not very good. The quest for a truly good Loco Moco is now officially over!

On our way home we stopped at Waimea and had dinner at the reopened Big Island Brewhaus. Good burgers and steak. And believe it or not, really great coleslaw. Won Bok (napa cabbage) Slaw. I’m going to see if I can reproduce this delicious salad at home. Will keep you posted.

After dinner, home to our wonderfully air-conditioned condo for reading, writing, computer games, and bed.

10/24 – Tuesday

It’s our lucky day (not so much)

After a very lazy morning spent indoors because of the rain (and yes it really does know how to rain on the “dry” side of the island), we decided on KOA Table for lunch. Very nice restaurant with a good menu that featured exotic drinks. Just because he could, Mr. C. ordered a Mai Tai. The ingredient list was just too interesting to resist. Rum, orange liqueur, spice rum, pineapple juice, and dark rum. (See a pattern here?) Mr. C. graciously gave me the first sip.

Not my drink of choice, that’s for sure, but fun to taste anyway. And it came with a cute little yellow umbrella, an orange slice, and a maraschino cherry. (Who could ask for anything more?) After lunch, it was up to Waikoloa Village for more food provisioning.

Then back home to veg and order the fried chicken dinner we were still salivating over. Since we had learned to our detriment that the delivery service stopped accepting orders at 5:00 pm, we placed our order around 3:00 pm for a 5:30 pm delivery. After being transferred three times, the person who finally took Mark’s order mumbled something about delivering the chicken in about 20 minutes. Although we would have preferred a later delivery, we went for it. It got to be about 4:30 pm – no chicken. So Mark called again and was told that the chicken would be delivered around 5:30 pm per our original request. Great. We were happily playing Balderdash anyway, and had plenty of time before heading off to hear John Keawe play at 7:00 pm on the Queen’s Court outdoor stage.

We waited and waited, but no chicken pecked at our door. Mark tried to call again at 6:01 pm, but the bistro was no longer answering their phone. So we were once again thwarted on our quest for a fried chicken dinner!

At 6:45 pm we hopped in the Jeep and headed off to see Mr. Keawe play solo slack key guitar. With our luck, and a great deal of help from Mother Nature, the outdoor concert had been cancelled. (Some days are just like that, even in paradise.)

So OK, now what? None of us particularly wanted to eat out, so we ventured off to the resort grocery store and bought a pre-made pasta, and combined it with some leftovers, for an edible, if not inspired dinner. Then a bit of reading and an early to bed.

10/25 – Wednesday

Captain Cook, plus rain = coffee?

Woke up to rain. Lots of rain! Had our breakfast and spent some time deciding if it was even worth venturing out of our nicely air-conditioned condo. At this time I should mention that not like at home, where rain actually cools the air, the opposite is exactly what happens in Hawaii. So even though it may be pouring buckets, when you open the door to go outside, you are blasted with very warm temperatures and 100% humidity.  Actually Mark and Mr. C. had taken an early morning walk, just to come home drenched from the high humidity that makes such a soggy pairing with rain in a tropical environment. But none of us could stand to spend the whole day at home, even if it meant reading in the air-conditioned comfort of our digs, so off we went heading south through Kona to visit the Punaluu Black Sand Beach Park.

But the further south we ventured, the wetter it became. So being reasonably intelligent people, we turned around after first visiting the Hawaii Coffee Company in the tiny berg of Captain Cook. After sampling some of their coffees, we bought a couple small packets of their best coffee (Peaberry) and three lovely bamboo salt cellars. Then north to Kona for lunch at the Kona Brewpub.

Home again and dinner at Roy’s Waikoloa Bar & Grill. Fabulous food.

10/26 – Thursday

Plants ahoy!

Woke to a partly cloudy, but beautiful day. Had planned to go over to Hilo to visit the botanical gardens, but changed our mind when we read that the weather would be better the next day on the east side of the island. So after breakfast we decided to stay on the dry side and headed north to visit the Pua Ma’u Place Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Established in 1974 by botanist Dr. Virgil Place, the gardens occupy 45 acres on the slopes of the Kohala Mountains. The facility focuses on the preservation of woody native plants as well as many other important native species. Here botanists, ecologists and amateur plant lovers can discover the richness and diversity of Hawaiian flora in a spectacular setting. Local fauna were also in evidence. A large flock of wild turkey. They greeted us as we began our self-guided tour, but quickly grew tired of us when they realized we were not going to offer them sustenance.

We also visited with a few guinea and pea fowl, and a nice old land turtle.

Pua Mau Place may primarily be a plant and tree sanctuary, but there’s more to this terrific arboretum than first meets the eye. In addition to the garden’s outstanding collection of flowering plants, we found original sculptures, (mainly huge bugs), exposed red lava rock boulders, and the remnants of other features that had seen better days.

Pua Mau Place also featured an impressive collection of hibiscus plants bursting with colors like lavender, pink and reddish-orange. The site’s Pikake Gallery was pleasant and featured artwork by local artists.

Since the death of Dr. Place, the entire 40 acres has been marginally maintained by volunteers. At present the grounds are up for sale. Just a cool $4,000,000. Not bad when you consider that the view from the top of the property is absolutely stunning.

It will truly be a loss if this beautiful plant sanctuary is reduced to 3 acre building lots. I’m just glad we were able to see this plant haven before it is totally devastated.

After sweating over the ups and downs of this amazing place, we unanimously decided we were hungry and deserved a nice lunch for all our physical effort. So back to Café Pesto for another delightful meal. This time Mr. C. actually found a dish with lots of pesto. (It’s called perseverance! Not the dish, but my dear husband’s determination!)

On our return trip, we stopped at Puako, a small beach town to get a close up and personal encounter with the ocean. Stayed for a few minutes to watch the surfers, then decided it was time to head for the barn. On the way back to our condo, Mark got a call from his friend Mark. It was an invitation to dine that evening with Mark and Jennifer at their home in Waikoloa Village. We eagerly accepted.

I always love going to people’s homes when I travel. And this was a rare treat. Mark and Jennifer have a lovely home filled with interesting art, and a sweeping NW view that includes the ocean and the island of Maui in the distance.

Dinner was fabulous. Deep fried calamari with aioli, and homemade spring rolls with pickled daikon radish and carrot wrapped in lettuce leaves, then dunked in a very tasty dip made with fish sauce as one of the ingredients.

For our entrée, fresh local fish, corn on the cob, and a delicious salad. Dessert – a creamy cheesecake topped with a homemade pear compote. Then fruit. Passion fruit (lilikoi) and mango, fresh from their garden. Amazing. A wonderful visit with 2 interesting and passionate people Mr. C. and I hope to also someday call good friends. Not only do they have a home in Hawaii, they own a farm on Camano Island. So they spend their summers on Camano, at least when Mark is not fishing in Alaska and their winters in Hawaii. (Not a bad life!) Next time they are on Camano, we plan to entertain them at our island home. After our delightful visit, it was back on the road down to our condo and a 10:00 pm bedtime.

10/27 – Friday

A Garden in a Valley on the Ocean

The time is going too fast! We have seen a great deal of the island, but there is still more I want to explore. One of the places at the top of my must visit list was the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden at Onomea Bay, north of Hilo. So off we set after breakfast even though it looked like we might be walking around in the rain. But when we arrived, it was neither raining, or too sunny, or full of biting insects. In fact, the weather was perfect for viewing the gardens at our leisure.

One drawback to the gardens, actually the only drawback, is that the first part of the walk is very steep. The boardwalk entrance is an engineering feat designed by the founder. It leads you down a narrow path from 120 feet above sea level, to almost sea level in 500 feet. Luckily for us, the garden management provides a nice gentleman in a golf cart to take people like us down most of the way. We readily availed ourselves of his service. (Mr. C. of course had to walk back up, but then he’s part mountain goat, so no problem for him!)

Once down the steep decline, we walked about a mile through an absolutely amazing array of ginger, anthuriam, banyan trees, hibiscus, orchids, lilies, bromeliad and other beautiful and exotic plants.

 

 

 

I loved every minute of our visit and true to my nature, I left kicking and screaming. Well, my inner kid was kicking and screaming, but I managed to hold it together enough as not to embarrass Mr. C. or myself.

After leaving the gardens, we decided we needed sustenance. (The theme of our trip.) We hadn’t even gone a mile when we spied a cute little restaurant – What’s Shakin’. Mark went up and checked out the menu, gave us a thumb’s up, and we walked up and placed our orders. Mark, Vicki, and I ordered hot dogs. Mr. C. decided upon a tuna sandwich with avocado. While we were waiting for our food, one of the owners came over and told us all about what was growing on their land and basically shared with us his very interesting philosophy of life. Somewhere in the conversation Vicki mentioned to this nice young man something about not being very impressed with the local avocados. He seemed to take it as a personal challenge to educate us on the redeeming qualities of the local varieties. He hurried off to bring us some guacamole and chips and sliced avocado to prove how very wrong we were in judging local avocadoes so harshly. And, he was right! The avocado we tasted was very flavorful and creamy. (Nice to be proven wrong in this manner.) After enjoying our lunch, we hastened back to our car for our 90 minute ride home.

We were home for about 30 minutes before it was time to load into the car and drive up to Hawi to meet Mark and Jennifer for dinner at Minnie’s.

And oh what a dinner. Prime rib, lobster, Korean spiced chicken drumettes, Kalua pork, and fresh Opakapaka, a delicious light pink fleshed snapper. Every dish at the table was beautifully prepared. If I lived on the NW part of the island, I believe Minnie’s would be my favorite restaurant. (Probably a good thing I don’t live on Hawaii!) Then aloha to our friends and back home and beddy-bye.

10/28 – Saturday

To market, to market to buy a fat pig. Scratch that! To buy breadfruit chips.  

After a nice breakfast, we decided to go to the Farmers Market in Hawi. Mark and Vicki wanted to purchase one of their favorite Hawaiian treats – breadfruit chips. The man who makes the chips was at the fair alright, but it’s too early for the breadfruit to be fully ripe. So therefore – no chips. Sad day. So after quickly checking out what each of the market vendors had to offer, we decided to head for Waimea for their Saturday market.

The Waimea market was all about food. Local honey, homemade bread, family made goat cheese, fresh fruit, you name it. We abstained from purchasing many of the items we would have purchased the previous week. With only a couple of days left before flying home, much of what we would have purchased would certainly have gone to waste. (I did buy some slab bacon and a loaf of Kalamata bread, but that was all!)

After visiting the market, we were hungry (of course we were) so we stopped at a small restaurant specializing in Middle Eastern food. We each ordered a beef döner kebab. After waiting the 25 minutes we were told it would take to fill our order, we decided to go back to the condo to eat.

After lunch we all voted for a quiet afternoon. Vicki, Mark, and I all took naps, while Mr. C. researched additional history regarding life in Prague in 1599. Why, you might wonder? Because he was reading Wolf on a String by Benjamin Black.

Sometime during the afternoon, Mark found the strength to make a reservation for dinner in Waikoloa Village at Pueo’s Osteria. We had heard that this was a really special place to dine when on the big island. But before we headed off to dinner, we drove over to the Hilton for a drink and to listen to two very fine guitarists perform in a lovely open air space. Andy and Toi were quite enjoyable, but at 6:30 pm we piled in the car and to our consternation, barely made our escape from the parking lot.

It was a gated parking lot, but when we went to pay, the pay station/gate control was out of order and the gate was down. Mr. C. tried to find a way to set us free, pushing all the normal buttons and trying to insert the parking ticket; all to no avail. And since it was already dark, we couldn’t see any other way of exiting our gated car prison. Finally conceding that our only options were to leave the car for the rental people to eventually liberate, or press the “help” button, we unanimously decided on the latter. Immediately upon pushing the help button, up went the gate. Needless to say we didn’t wait around. We slunk away, and headed straight for freedom and the village for an evening of purported wonderful food and terrific ambiance.

Our meal at Pueo’s Osteria was OK, but I feel the hype surrounding this restaurant was much exaggerated. Definitely too affected for our tastes and much too pretentious for the quality of the dishes served and the facility itself. For example: The air conditioning unit directly over our table kept slowly dripping condensation on our table, the floor and the people at the next table. Also, the tables were spaced so closely, every time a waiter passed, I got an elbow in the ribs and felt compelled to secure our drink glasses so they wouldn’t wind up on the floor. (There was already enough liquid on the floor from the condensation.) So all together, not a dining experience I care to repeat. Some people however must have thought better of the restaurant because the entrance walls were covered with pictures of the owner and his important patrons with arms around each other and big old sappy smiles on their faces. Got to wonder!?!? Then back to our carriage, down the road to our condo, and an early lights out for yours truly.

10/29 – Sunday

The call of the wild!  

Beautiful morning for a trip to the zoo in Hilo. So around 10:00 am we once again squeezed ourselves into the Jeep, and headed up and over the Saddle Road to the wet side of the island. The Pana`ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens are just outside Hilo on the road up to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. This 12-acre zoo is the only naturally occurring tropical rainforest zoo in the United States. It is home to more than 80 animal species including giant anteaters, American alligators, and two Bengal tigers, a white Bengal named Tzatziki and an orange Bengal named Sriracha. The zoo opened in 1978 and features exhibits that are designed to maximize and blend with the natural vegetation of the Pana‘ewa Forest Reserve, which incidentally, receives more than 125 inches of rain a year.

An absolutely delightful free zoo, with plants everywhere and playground equipment and fun benches perfect for young children and tired and humidity drenched older women. A marvelous and magical place. We even met the resident Black Swan. Again, I really didn’t want to leave.

State bird of Hawaii – Nene

When we got near the parrots large cage, they were squawking up a storm. Something was eating their food. Now really! How much can a tiny gecko eat anyway? And what ever happened to sharing?

After the zoo we drove back to Hilo to have lunch at Saigon, a new Vietnamese restaurant. We had wonderful Bahn Mi and Pho. Vicki enjoyed a Thai iced tea while we waited for our food.

So just to be able to say we did, we decided to continue our drive south so that we could brag that we had circumnavigated the island. Plus we really wanted to see the black sand beach and turtles at Punalu’u Beach County Park.

After a quick stop to feel the sand between our toes and watch a lazy turtle slide down the sand to the water, we continued our journey. Tired and butt sprung we made it home at about 7:00 pm.

We heated up leftovers, and enjoyed a quite delicious Italian meal. Then after about an hour of reading and writing, it was off to bed. Four tired, but very happy people.

10/30 – Monday

Almost gone girls and boys

Quiet day of packing and reading. We lunched across the street from our condo at the Bay Club Café and Bar, basically because Mark had a $40 credit for the café, and it was burning a hole in all of our pockets! Plus, it finally gave me a chance to have the fried chicken I had been craving since about the 2nd day after we arrived.

Before our food arrived, we took a picture with a cardboard cut-out of Mark’s old friend Eric, recently deceased. This is for his dear wife Eliza. Cheers Eric, you will be sorely missed.

Then back to our room for more packing, reading, and napping. At about 4:30 pm we headed up to Waikoloa Village for another wonderful visit and dinner with Mark and Jennifer. This evening we were served barbequed Alaskan salmon and Kobe beef. Amazing. Then for dessert, Jennifer offered us 3 flavors of homemade fruit sorbet. Absolutely a perfect way to end a meal. Another lovely evening spent with this interesting and intrepid couple.

After saying our good-byes, we toddled down the hill to finish our packing and get a good night’s sleep. But for me, a good night’s sleep before traveling is never going to happen. I invariably toss and turn and imagine the very worst possible things that could happen to keep us from making our flight. But I refuse to enumerate my ridiculous anxieties because then you might start worrying about them too. And then I would have one more thing to feel guilty about. Just suffice it to say, I did not get a good night’s sleep Monday night. Eventually I must have drifted off, but when it was actually time to arise, it sure didn’t feel like I had slept a wink.

10/31 – Tuesday

Over Achievers – one and all

OK, I’ll share one of my concerns with you, because I don’t know a single other woman who isn’t nervous about getting to the airport on time! Men, not so much. (For which I could hate them if I put my mind to it!) Here goes. My number one worry the night before a morning flight, is that the alarm won’t go off, especially if it’s the resident alarm clock in a hotel room. Never mind Mr. C. also sets the alarm on his cell phone, I still feel compelled to check the hour several times during the night to make certain I haven’t already over-slept. Why I have this apprehension I have no idea! We have never been late or even been close to missing a flight. But still I worry about getting out of bed in time to shower, have breakfast, etc. Perhaps it stems from the fact that I am not a morning person. Since retiring, I routinely sleep until my body feels fully refreshed and ready to greet the day in a happy and civil manner. (And also when it decides it can’t continue functioning properly without an infusion of caffeine!) But regardless of any legitimate reasons for my distress, I become a “clock watcher” the night before departures. And the real reason I am not sharing my other concerns with you is that if you think my alarm clock fixation is crazy, you would identify my other trepidations as “this woman really needs help”! End of subject!

Originally we had planned to leave for the airport at 8:00 am for our 11:15 am flight. But since we were all ready to leave by 7:30 am and I was chomping at the bit to get going, we headed out. Practically no traffic on our 30 minute commute to the Kona airport. Then returning the rental car was the easiest and fastest turnover we had ever experienced. So that left us in line to have our baggage weighed and tagged around 8:20 am. Only one snafu. The baggage personnel weren’t scheduled to start processing luggage until 8:45 am. So once again, not only had I wasted what could have been a good night’s sleep worrying about what ifs, I had to stand in a very humid space for almost half an hour because we were too early! (I’m choosing to use the royal “we” here to perhaps save a little bit of face!)

Vicki decided if she had to wait to have her luggage tagged, she was going to get comfortable, regardless of what she had to do to achieve her goal!

But once our luggage was tagged, and had passed the agricultural scanning, we were free to have our bodies scanned to make sure we weren’t wearing anything that might prove hurtful to either the passengers or the plane.

Three of us made it through unscathed. Vicki on the other hand, almost had to go through a body search because she kept setting off the alarm. Finally they had her remove her sandals because they had a tiny bit of metal decoration on them. The bells and whistles stopped. She was them deemed safe and was allowed to proceed without further incident. (For information regarding the results of TSA’s time, effort and money spent to prevent terrorism in America, please see the bottom of this post for David Horsey’s short article on the subject.) (You might remember that David Horsey’s editorial cartoons appeared in the Seattle PI until December of 2011.)

After Vicky’s harrowing escape from the clutches of TSA, we grabbed a bite at the one and only eating establishment the airport provides. Since it was the only air-conditioned space available, we stayed until it was time to board our plane. Looked out the window as the plane was lifting off the tarmac, thinking to myself, that once again we had been lucky enough to experience a wonderful place on our home planet. Reached altitude and it was smooth sailing all the way to Sea-Tac. Upon arrival, we were very glad we had worn long pants and had our jackets at the ready, because it was cold! After claiming the car, we decided our first stop had to be Jack-in-the-Box. Surprising how good a small fast-food burger can taste when you’re hungry and tired. Home safe and sound and in bed by midnight. (BTW – I slept like a rock!)

VANILLA EXTRACT PRODUCTION  

According to the Huffington Post, and I para-phrase, “Vanilla comes from beautiful, delicate orchids of the genus Vanilla. The vanilla orchid is a vine-like plant that grows up trees and can reach a length of 30 feet. The plants originally came from Mesoamerica, including parts of modern day Mexico and Guatemala. While the major species of vanilla orchids are now grown around the world, they can only grow 10 to 20 degrees north or south of the equator. (10 degrees latitude = approximately 690 miles.)

The most widely used orchid to produce vanilla is the Vanilla planifolia. The Vanilla planifolia, or Flat-Leaved Vanilla, is the only orchid used for industrial food production. The plant part that is used is the pod. The vanilla pod, commonly referred to as a bean, contains thousands of tiny black seeds. The pods are picked when they are still not ripe, and then plunged into hot water and laid out to dry for anywhere from two to six months.

Vanilla extract comes from macerating vanilla beans and mixing them with water and alcohol. Vanilla is the second most-expensive spice after saffron. Like saffron, vanilla is very labor intensive to produce. In order for vanilla orchids to produce pods, the flower (orchid) must be pollinated by hummingbirds or a specific species of bees native to Central America. But in order to harvest vanilla commercially, the plants must be hand-pollinated. Each delicate orchid flower requires the manual transference of pollen from one part of the orchid to another part of the flower. And since the flowers are only open for a short period of time, pollinating the orchids becomes a task worthy of a very devoted crew.”

TSA’S 95% FAILURE RATE SHOWS AIRPORT SECURITY IS A CHARADE – BY DAVID HORSEY (June 2015)

“A couple of years ago my wife — who may be the least likely person on the planet to commit an act of terrorism — was randomly pulled aside at airport security for a thorough screening. Seeing that the process was going to take a while, I took a seat on a nearby bench where a TSA officer was taking a break.

I told the officer why I was waiting. He smirked and told me he had been in the military and knew a little bit about security. Then he waved his arm at the ranks of screening apparatus and long lines of haggard airline passengers and said something like: “This is all a joke. I can think of a hundred ways to sneak a weapon through all of this.”

Something tells me that young man is not still employed by the TSA. Either he would have tired of the empty exercise and found more fulfilling employment or his supervisors would have punished him for his honesty. However things have turned out for him, his analysis has proved to be disturbingly accurate.

A report leaked out of the Transportation Security Administration reveals that a team of investigators from the Department of Homeland Security managed to sneak weapons and fake bombs past airport screeners in 95% of their attempts to beat the system. That means what many of us suspected all along has now been confirmed. All those expensive body and baggage scanning machines, all that intrusive rummaging through luggage, all those intimate pat-downs of little kids and grannies, all those nail clippers confiscated, all those bottles of liquids seized, all those shoes and belts taken off, all those laptops pulled out and all those thousands of frustrating hours wasted in line have been mostly for show.

Millions of American citizens have been unwittingly turned into non-speaking extras in an epic theater production staged by our government in airports across the country. The goal has been to trick a few would-be airplane bombers into thinking they will get caught and to create an illusion of safety for innocent air travelers. That charade has been exposed.

Now what happens? The current Senate confirmation hearings of U.S. Coast Guard Vice Adm. Peter V. Neffenger, President Obama’s nominee to take over as TSA administrator, should become a forum for debate about how to radically alter the way TSA operates. In a perfect world, such a debate would lead to wider examination of the country’s vast, fear-driven, money-sucking national security system that metastasized after 9/11 into a bureaucratic colossus, but that is likely too much to hope for.

There have got to be smarter ways to provide real security at airports. Treating the 99.99% of travelers who just want to get from here to there like criminal suspects has always been offensive. Now we know it is also woefully ineffective.”

On a happier note, I hope each of you have a chance to visit our 50th state. It is totally deserving of both your time and energy.

And a special “mahalo” to Mark and Vicki, not only for sharing their condo and leading us on this grand adventure, but especially for being such wonderful friends. We love you guys. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please let me know if you like this recipe. Thanks